Spice Jet Airline helps the Afghan Medical Tourists

Medical Tourism Industry in India is growing very fast by attracting the patients by providing the best facilities in the hospitals.

An economically troubled airline is attracting business by offering low fares to fly Afghans to India for medical treatment.

Loss making Spice Jet has cut routes, executives, pilot and aircraft numbers in an offer to live. It has increased passenger numbers, but often by cutting fares to get capacity.

There are hospitals in Afghanistan, but the quality is low compared to India. So it is attractive for Afghans to combine low cost flights with low cost treatment in New Delhi. Indian visas are easy to get and not so easy for another of Pakistan, which is also seen as a less secure and less friendly place to drive.

Spice Jet is the only private Indian carrier with direct flights to war-scarred Afghanistan. India has made it easier to get visas and estimates that the number of Afghans seeking treatment and in 2013 had 32,000 medical visas, set to increase extensively in 2014.

Spice Jet flies 1000 Afghan medical tourists and their relatives each month from Kabul to New Delhi, and rights the route is very profitable. From July, easier visa rules mean that Afghans can stay for as long as two years at a time and medical tourists with medical visas do not have to report to Indian police stations.

The only two airlines with direct flights are state owned Air India and Kabul airline Safi Airways.

The Lajpat Nagar area of New Delhi is known as Little Afghanistan as it has travel agencies and restaurants maintained by Afghans. This connection plus the very low prices in local hospitals where even those normally not attractive to medical tourists appear luxurious compared to hospitals in Afghanistan, helps drive demand.

The trip from afghan to India is not risk free. In July the Taliban attacked the airport in the Afghan capital with rockets while a Spice Jet plane was parked there. Spice Jet, briefly suspended flights to Afghanistan after the Kabul rocket attack, but soon went back to business.

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